God's Free Election
1. We will start reading again this January from The Epistle To The Disciples At Rome. We are going into chapter nine. The second division of this epistle begins with chapter nine. The end of the first division finished up in [talking] about [God's love]. Let's read it first with the purpose of reminding ourselves of his statements thus far. Please look beginning at verse thirty-eight in chapter eight. "I have a conviction. Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor that which rules, nor things present, nor things future, nor things with power, nor things in high places, nor things in low places, nor any other creature is able to separate us from the love of God shown in our Lord Christ Jesus," (8:38-39). This is how Paul with overflowing joy ended chapter eight speaking his conviction about the love of God shown in Christ.
2. We are reading its sequel but we notice the tone has changed considerably. I think many people when reading through Romans get stuck and stop here. People might feel like this is too hard to understand. [Some] people might not be too impressed with what has been said here. But, this is an important part of the Bible. Whether we are impressed with it or not does not matter. It does not matter so much if what has been written is easy for us to accept or we feel resistance to it. The important thing is that we listen to what God is saying our way from this passage. I would like us to really strain the ears of our hearts and begin to read again from this book.
Deep Sadness And Unending Pain
3. To begin, let's read from verses one to five.
"I am telling the truth as a person joined to Christ and am not speaking any lies. My conscience also testifies through the Holy Spirit, but deep sadness lies within me, unending pain lies within my heart. I even feel like I personally should be separated from Christ and be abandoned by God for my brothers, that is, for my fellow country men according to the flesh. They are the people of Israel. An identity as God's sons, the glory, the covenant, the law, the service [of worship in the temple], and the promises belong to them. The ancestors also belong to them. Christ himself in the flesh came from them. Christ [is] God who is above all creation, who is to be praised forever, Amen," (verses one through five).
4. Paul is speaking here about sadness and pain. As I mentioned earlier, the tone is very different from the ending in chapter eight. There is a huge gap between the joy that was filled with conviction [and confidence] in chapter eight and the sadness in chapter nine. What is going on here? Some might think it strange. But, if you give it some thought, this is not unusual at all in the Bible. We can see in many characters appearing in the Bible this joy and sadness. Also, we may be able to see in Christ a figure so charged [with these emotions]. With that being the case, it is not odd for them to appear among Christians. Indeed, rather, if both of them are missing, it might not be healthy for the believer's walk..
5. The sadness of Paul was in his feeling for the Jews, his fellow country men and women. He was sad thinking about the unbelief of his countrymen and women who have not accepted Christ nor the salvation of God. The Jews, Paul's kinsmen, supposed that they had a sure standing within the plan of God's salvation and in the history of God's deliverance. God produced the people of Israel and treated them as his own sons and daughters. The Lord said, (Exodus 4:23), "Israel is my son, my first [born] son." God manifested his own glory in Israel. God made a covenant with them, gave them the law, taught them how to serve him, and gave them the promise of salvation. They were unmistakably in the flesh the descendants of their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Christ the savior in the flesh also was born a Jew. He was born as their brother. When the message of salvation was first given it had to be to them. They expected to be the closest to the work of God's salvation. But, his fellow country persons did not accept Christ. Neither the redemption on the cross, nor the grace of forgiveness of sin, nor new life in the Holy Spirit, nor the hope of the resurrection has reached [his people, the Jews]. This became an unending pain in Paul's heart and was deep sadness for him.
6. That's why Paul says, "I even feel like I personally should be separated from Christ and be abandoned by God for my brothers, that is, for my fellow country men according to the flesh," (verse three). We should not regard being separated from Christ as a light matter. These are the words of a man who thought there was nothing worse than to be abandoned by God. They are thought only as heavy words.
7. It is believed that perhaps at the background to Paul's words was Moses' words from the Old Testament. Moses prayed in Exodus 32:31 as follows, "So, this people has committed a great sin and made a golden god. Now, if you would please forgive their sin ... If that doesn't suit you, won't you please erase me from the book you have written?" As you know, when Moses was given the ten commandments from God on Mount Sinai, the people of Israel made a golden bull and worshipped it as "the gods that led them out of the land of Egypt." It was Moses who was seeking for forgiveness of sin on their behalf and prayed in intercession for them even wishing to get his own name erased out of God's book.
8. So, Paul was not just sorry for his fellow country men and women. When he said "he should become a person abandoned by God," what lies within that [statement] is the figure of him praying in intercession for the sin of his fellow [Israelites], the same as Moses. It goes with what he himself says later in chapter ten and verse one, "I wish in my heart that they would be saved and I pray to God for them." When Paul preached the gospel, those who persecuted him most were his fellow country men and women, the Jews. Paul did not hate the [unbelieving] sinful Jews, nor did he just feel sorry for them, but was one who devoted himself in prayer for them.
Because He Knew The Mercy Of God
9. Let's continue and read from verse six to verse thirteen.
"But, the word of God has not lost its efficacy at all. All those who come from Israel do not become Israelites and though they claim to be descendants of Abraham, not all are his children. Rather, 'The one born from Isaac will be called your descendant.' That is, the child in the flesh is not the child of God but the child born according to the promise is considered the descendant. The message of the promise was 'About this time next year I will come. Then, a boy will be born to Sarah.' That's not all, it's the same even in the case when Rebekah became pregnant by [her] man, that is, by our father Isaac. Even though those children had not yet been born and had not done either good or bad, it was told to Rebekah that 'The elder brother will serve the younger brother.' This was because God's plans which go according to his free election do not come from man's works, but are advanced by the one who calls. According to the [scriptures] it is written, "I loved Jacob and I hated Esau,'" (verses six through thirteen).
10. The important subject being written about here is this matter of "election." The words "free choice" of God appear in verse eleven. But, even with that in our consideration, the last phrase "I have loved Jacob and I have hated Esau" make a very shocking phrase in a certain sense. Of course, the "I" here is God. God is saying that he loves one certain person but hates another. This particular message will be expanded upon further in verse fifteen which we will read next week. "I will have compassion on whomever I want to and I will have affection for whomever I want to." All of these are quotations from the Old Testament. Well then, why in the world must he speak on this matter of the free choice of God by quoting these particular phrases?
11. First what we need to keep in our remembrance here, as one would expect, is that Paul wasn't the first one to have spoken on the election of God. The Jews had already done so. There has already been a people who have confessed themselves as the chosen people of God, the elect. But, the reason Paul had to speak on "the election of God" again was because there had been a problem with their ideas on the chosen people. Paul had to quote words that spoke so daringly in extremes on the free election of God because the problem was great .
12. Where did the problem lie? Firstly, it was in how they had understood belonging to the people of God as a problem of lineage and race and the presence or not of the circumcision established by law. It was in how those born in Israel were Israel. [They said] those who received circumcision as Jews were the [real] Jews. From these facts they claimed they were the descendants of Abraham and the people of God. But, Paul said to their faces that "it wasn't true." Then he took up the story of Abraham. Isaac wasn't the only son of Abraham. He had [a child] Ishmael by Hagar, and the children Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, Shuah by Keturah. However, only the ones born from Isaac were made the descendants of Abraham. This means that the people of God were not formed by a simple blood line bond. It depends on the plan of God and [his] promises.
13. Furthermore, the second problem was bigger. It is that their idea of the chosen people was connected to a claim of superiority and a mentality of special privilege. It got that way because they understood their being the people of God as a matter of blood line and race. They thought as if it were natural that they were the chosen people of God because they were the descendants in the flesh of Abraham. They considered it as if it were a right already acquired. Being born a Jew and living day to day in keeping with the law was considered as a justifiable basis on which they could demand the favor and salvation of God. The people who claimed privilege and authority did not understand what the grace they were given [really] was. The people who thought that the basis on which to obtain the favor of God was with them did not comprehend the mercy of God. That's the problem.
14. In contrast to this, Paul identifies that Isaac was the child born according to the promise. The words of the promise were that "about this time next year, I will come. And, a boy will be born to Sarah." Sarah laughed at the time. The Bible said that. Because it was something that could not happen. It could not happen as far as nature was concerned [because she was way too old]. Yet, Isaac was born. His birth clearly did not belong to the natural realm. The Bible was calling it purely a miraculous work of God. It means that when Isaac "was born according to the promise" it was single handedly a work of God's grace. As is clear from this matter, the existence of God's people on this earth was not a natural thing nor was it a matter of course to be expected. This says that the ones who originally were unable to exist did exist through the grace of God.
15. Saying that this situation is purely based on God is emphasized by the phrase "the free election of God." The story of Isaac's children is quoted next. Jacob and Esau were twin brothers. Although they were twins, Esau had not changed his name but Jacob had changed his name to Israel. He became the ancestor of Israel. The one chosen was Jacob. Verse thirteen talks about this matter. "I loved Jacob and I hated Esau." This is a quote from Malachi chapter one. What we ought to pay attention to here is not the [statement] "I hated Esau" but the [statement] "I loved Jacob."
16. The Jews, which Paul is talking about, are not the only ones not to understand the grace and mercy of God. I suppose we get that way, too. We think we are automatically supposed to be loved. Supposing that we can obtain God's favor, we think the basis for [gaining God's favor] lies with us on our part. Humans are able to think of God only according to their own standards. We, who are proud, often times can't think of anything but [what is] in our human focus. The person, who thinks "since it's God, God is supposed to love everybody," will not be able to understand verse thirteen. But, give it some thought. Where ever in the world is the person good enough to be loved by God? Are you truly deserving of being loved by a holy God? God is supposed to love people -- Absurd! Nowhere in this world are there people who will be able to make the claim with God that they themselves are supposed to be loved [by rights].
17. When we know no one is qualified to be loved by God, and there is no basis on our part to be able to claim the salvation of God, we are beginning to be able to understand verse thirteen. God says, "I loved Jacob." Even though Jacob was loved, the basis [for it] was not in Jacob. It absolutely was not. That's what this is all about. It is the same for us, too.
18. Thus, when Paul spoke on "election," it was the grace and mercy of God that he was truly wanting to make clear by it. Because Paul himself truly knew by God's mercy who he was now. We too should not take it for granted that we thus have now been made into people who know Christ and that we are now led to this place. Thus, we should not take it for granted that we are made into people who pray to God and worship him. There is no basis on our part to be called the people of God. [The basis for an invitation to the people of God] is the free election of God and it is only the mercy of God that lies therein [i.e. in God's choice].
19. Because Paul knew that everything depends on God and is [up to] God's mercy, he earnestly prayed for his fellow country men and women who had not yet accepted Christ. He prayed for those who rejected and persecuted the good news [of the gospel]. The person who does not think that he or she was called by God's mercy seems to look down on sinful people and tends to judge them. The person, who knows who he is right now by God's mercy, will pray for the person who has not accepted the gospel.